During the 1st part of our article (available here) we focused on listing the best tradeshows and online platforms from where you can build your own valuable and large list of potential suppliers.
In this 2nd part of our article, we will focus on selecting the 10 suppliers you will actually contact and spend time comparing.
This 2nd part of our article will be more practical than the 1st one, with many down-to-earth advices on how to judge if a supplier you find online or on a tradeshow is reliable, if you should really work with him. Many tips exist, we hope you can benefit from V-Trust 15 years’ experience!
This article takes around 9 minutes to read (≈ 1800 words). You can then directly use the several tips we share.
Assessing a supplier you have found online
Let’s start by showing how you can assess a supplier you have found on one of the platform we shared during the 1st part of our article (Global source, Alibaba, etc).
By nature, the assessment of a supplier you have only met online is more basic and risky. After all, when online everything could still be fake. You never met them before and maybe never will! But still some tips exist.
- Product fit
You can start by checking the products displayed on their online showroom, material used and general product category.
Let’s say they only sell disposable plastic product (straw, plastic cup, plastic plate). It could be a good sign, it is possibly a factory specialized in plastic disposable items only.
On the other hand, if their online showroom displays plastic straw, but also natural bamboo straw, metal straw and more, this is most probably a trading company specialized in straw. Presumably, no factory in the word could master such distinct material. Various material (plastic, natural bamboo, metal, etc) implies very different machineries and production process.
Some online showroom would even display all kind of products from all kind of product categories. You name a product, they have it. From dinnerware to electronic and textile. A trading company is surely behind this account.
In a word, try to find a partner with only one product category, made from only one material.
Most online sourcing platform enable suppliers to upload their certifications and buyers to check them. Do not miss the chance.
- Export destinations
Check their export destinations. This is merely informative, as we highly doubt that any of the online platform really double check if suppliers really export to all the countries they claim. Still, it may be a good sign If they already claim to export to your country or region. You can always dig in and ask more details later.
- Location of the factory
Every suppliers must put an address to be registered online. This address can be a great tool to assess him.
Production in China works by “industrial clusters”. Province, city or area in China are often specialized in one product category, one product or one material.
For example Chaozhou in Guangdong is famous for its ceramic products, Enping (also in Guangdong) for its earphones and microphones factories, Shenzhen for all type of electronic (the Silicon Valley of hardware).
If the supplier is located in northern China (more well-known for industrial tools and machineries) and claim to produce smartphone, you would better dig in. There may be something wrong, it may be a trading company or even a scam.
- Gold suppliers
Most online platform give Gold status to some suppliers. However, be aware that most of the time suppliers pay for this status. Alibaba, Global Sources and other platform usually only do a basic check, often only by checking the scanned copy of their business license. They never bother visiting the supplier and assess them before giving Gold status (something that V-Trust can do, by actually sending an auditor in the factory).
We have now reviewed 5 positive signs when assessing your supplier online. Let’s now check 3 negative signs that you may spot when checking the online showroom of the supplier.
- Platform information not matching website info
Double check the contact information given on the online platform with the ones appearing on the website. Email domain name, email address, address and name of key contacts should be the same.
Otherwise, the profile displayed on the online platform may try to falsify the identity of a real factory, only by changing the contact name and email.
- Sponsored ads
Be aware of top results, including gold suppliers appearing on top. Top results are usually only sponsored advertisement but not necessarily top suppliers.
- Name of the company not related to the product range
Company name should be related to the product category they claim do deal with.
Assessing a supplier during a fair
Let’s now show how you can assess a supplier you are meeting during a tradeshow (for a list of tradeshows, you can refer to the 1st part of our article).
First thing to do would be to judge your sales representative. It can tell you a lot about the supplier.
How old is he?
What is his education major?
Can you add his wechat/whatsapp/linkedin?
How long has he been working in the industry, for which other companies?
Does he really know the production process of your product?
Can he answer to technical questions (or at least, can he contact an engineer to inform you)?
At this stage, you are just meeting them for the first time on the fair. Maybe you hard about them, maybe you were attracted by their samples.
- MOQ, price, material, etc.
Of course, you will start assessing them with the material they use, their production capacities, the customization possibilities, etc.
Mentioning about MOQ from the very beginning usually sounds like you are a small buyer to the supplier. Instead of asking directly about MOQ, why not mentioning about your project, your market and volume first, then see their reaction and let them mention MOQ?
Look at the samples. Do not only overview them but inspect them carefully, touch them and feel them. This is definitely one of the main advantage of joining a fair.
- Visit many suppliers
Do not limit yourself. You have probably spent a few thousand dollars for this business trip, better make the most of it and visit numerous suppliers.
- Products displayed on the booth
This is similar to what we advised in the case of the assessment of an online supplier. See if their product range is consistent and with the same material. If not, you may be sitting at the booth of a trading company.
- Other fairs they attend to
Which other fairs do they attend to?
It is a good way to know about potential interesting fairs.
It is also a good way to see if they are specialized in their product range, especially if they attend to smaller and more specific fairs.
- Ask specific questions
You can ask specific questions about the material they use, their production process, if you can chose different quality of raw material, if they offer any production options. The main point is to have a feeling, see if they are confident enough when answering.
- Ask to visit the factory
You may never visit their factory, you may simply not have time for it. However, it is worth seeing their reactions, see if they are reluctant to give the address and are already trying to find excuses to avoid a visit.
We have now reviewed 5 positive signs to look for when meeting a potential supplier on a tradeshow. Let’s now mention 6 negative signs that you may encounter when visiting their booth.
- No experience with your local market.
This “Country Test” is one of the most important thing to do when meeting a supplier. If you are from Europe or the US, but the factory mainly export to other Asian countries, the Middle East or other African countries, you should be extra careful. Quality level may be below your expectations.
Supplier will probably claim that they will alleviate their standard for you. However, it’s not that easy. In fact their whole supply chain is already settled for lower quality standard with cheaper raw materials, lower quality control standards, older machineries and less skilled workers.
Better selecting suppliers who already have experience with my marketplace or similar quality level marketplaces.
To quickly judge whether they already export to your market you can ask them to share some customers’ names (however, they can still lie…) but also (and maybe more importantly) to show some testing/certifications their products have passed. Are these testing reports the one specially required by Europe or the US? If yes there is good chances they have experience with your market, they have already invested time and money for testing specifically required by your market, for other customers from the same region.
- Company name does not match the exhibitor name
After asking to see some testing reports or certifications, double check if it matches the name displayed on the booth. You can also do the same with the business license (it is very common to ask for the business license in China)
From our experience, most certificates or testing reports are usually not fake and are original ones. However (and it is a big however), they are often valid for another product or for another manufacturer, not for the product you have in front of your eyes. Be aware.
- Alibaba shop completely unrelated from products displayed
Once you are sitting with a sales representative, you can definitely ask him to show you their Alibaba/GlobalSource shop on your phone. Is their Alibaba shop matching the products displayed on the fair? Or at least the product range?
As mentioned in the part 1 of this article, keep in mind that most companies do not keep their Alibaba page up to date (especially for new products and design). Copyright infringement is a big thing in Asia.
- Name of the company completely unrelated from products displayed
We already mentioned this in the case of a supplier found online. Better if the supplier name mentions their product category or the material they use.
Better also if the factory location matches the industry of the area (for example Electronic for Shenzhen).
- Do not only focus on the price
You can always negotiate the final price after. A tradeshow is not the best place to negotiate a final price, it might be a waste of time and energy. Quotations also tend to be higher during the fair.
Why not waiting to compare all suppliers and ask them for better price a few weeks after the fair, when orders are slowing down for them?
With this 2nd part you now know how to assess your supplier online or during a tradeshow. In the 3rd and last part of our article we will focus on how to select the final 1 supplier you want to work with (along with 1 or 2 back up suppliers).
Hope to see you reading our 3rd part!
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